Morsi Grants Egyptian Army Police Powers on Eve of Mass Protests

Egyptian army soldiers stand below opposition supporters in front of the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo on December 9. (Agence France-Presse)

Morsi Grants Egyptian Army Police Powers on Eve of Mass Protests

Morsi opposition readies for Tuesday rival protests

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi officially granted the Egyptian military the power to arrest and detain citizens starting Monday--the eve of national pro- and anti-Morsi rival protests, which follow over two weeks of unrest in the country.

The decree, which was drafted over the weekend but finalized on Monday, orders the military to fully cooperate with police "to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum," and is being criticized by rights groups as "a dangerous loophole which may well lead to the military trial of civilians."

In an attempt to pacify opposition protesters, over the weekend Morsi rescinded his original presidential decree, which was given on November 22nd and granted Morsi sweeping powers over the Egyptian government. The decree had lead to a rush drafting of the country's new constitution through the exclusion of oppositional voices within parliament and thus galvanized anti-Morsi protests.

Morsi did not, however, rescind the controversial constitutional referendum, on which the country is still expected to vote on December 15th.

Late Sunday, the opposition coalition National Salvation Front, which has formed out of the anti-Morsi protest movement, called for a boycott of the referendum, announcing: "We do not recognize the draft constitution because it does not represent the Egyptian people."

"The Front invites Egypt's great people to protest peacefully in various liberation squares in the capital this coming Tuesday to show dissatisfaction at the president's disregard of the people's demands and in refusal of the constitution that infringes on rights and freedoms."

"We are against this process from start to finish," Hussein Abdel Ghani, spokesman of the National Salvation Front, said.

Morsi supporters are also expected to demonstrate on Tuesday. Rival protesters have clashed throughout the weeks, leading to at least seven deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Of the military referendum, Juan Cole of Informed Commentwrites:

I spent some of summer, 2011, hanging out in Tahrir Square at a time when thousands of protesters regularly gathered there. A consistent demand, visible in dozens of placards, posters and graffiti, was that the power of the military to arrest civilians and remand them for trial in military courts be rescinded.

Morsi is attempting to ally with the military against the revolutionary youth, and so is giving back to the officers this prerogative. Nothing could succeed better in alienating the protesters from Morsi than this decree.

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